Friday, April 27, 2007

Webcasting fight moves to Congress

After weeks of squabbling between webcasters and the Copyright Royalty Board, Congress has stepped in to protect internet webcasters.

Reps. Inslee (top) and Manzullo (bottom)Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL), along with seven other cosponsors, introduced a bill in Congress (pdf) yesterday that could nullify punishing new rates recommended by royalty collection agency SoundExchange and set by the three judges of the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) (pdf). These rates, according to many advocates, could have put internet radio in jeopardy for both large and small webcasters, affecting the fees they pay to play music online.

The Internet Radio Equality Act aims to put the brakes on a controversial March 2 decision by the CRB, which would set escalating royalties retroactively from 2006 to 2010 on webcasters, in addition to a $500 annual fee.

Webcasters, including even large internet services and terrestrial broadcast groups such as Clear Channel and NPR, have been fearing the decision, which they claim could have raised royalty rates between 300-1200%, a rate that could put them out of business. SoundExchange has been playing hardball, and has been rather unsympathetic to the webcasters' cause. The CRB has been on the side of SoundExchange since the beginning, and a few weeks ago threw out an appeal by commercial webcasters, National Public Radio and others to review the new rates and postpone a May 15 deadline for the introduction of the royalty schedule (pdf).

The new bill, if passed, would throw out the CRB's decision and set royalty rates at 7.5% of the webcaster's revenue for 2006-2010, the same rate paid by satellite radio. Alternatively, webcasters could decide to pay 33 cents per hour of sound recordings transmitted to a single user. Royalty rules for noncommercial radio such as NPR would be reset.

Webcasters are applauding this move. National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Exec. VP Dennis Wharton said, "We will work with Congress to craft a solution that helps ensure the survival of a fledgling audio platform."

"This bill asks Congress to reinforce its historic acknowledgement that public broadcasting has a place in the media landscape by modernizing section 118 of the Copyright Act for the 21st century," said NPR VP/Communications Andi Sporkin. "The CRB Board would not consider the public service aspect of more than 800 stations across the country when it made its recent decision. This bill will provide a long term resolution that is fair for all sides."

"Since the CRB's March 2nd decision to dramatically and unfairly increase webcaster royalty rates, millions of Internet radio listeners, webcasters and artists have called on Congress to take action," said Jake Ward of the SaveNetRadio coalition. "Today Congress took notice, and we thank Mr. Inslee for leading the charge to save music diversity on the Internet."

Ward continued, "This bill is a critical step to preserve this vibrant and growing medium, and to develop a truly level playing field where webcasters can compete with satellite radio. The Internet Radio Equality Act is the last best hope webcasters, artists, and listeners have to keep the music playing."

Bill Goldsmith of RadioParadise said, "It's now time to step up our pressure on Congress -- specifically the House, at this point -- to address this issue quickly, hopefully before the new rates go into effect on May 1."

Tim Westergren of also issued a call to arms for webcasters and listeners. He claimed, "Following our outreach to Pandora listeners, every congressional office was flooded with constituent phone calls, emails and faxes - literally hundreds of thousands in just 5 days! The entire fax system on the Hill was brought to a standstill. We had to hand deliver the faxes!" Westergren echoed the challenge of contacting congresspeople to gain support for the the bill.

Many webcasters, including Goldsmith, Westergren, Soma.FM's Rusty Hodge and others plan to travel to Washington next week to lobby congresspeople themselves.

In recent months, SoundExchange has been waging a hard-fought war in their attempts to raise the rates to extreme levels. The group's front man, Jon Simson, has taken a 'let them eat cake' approach to the plight of webcasters, claiming that they could merely sell more advertising. "Webcasters have a number of opportunities to maximize revenue with ... banner ads, pop-ups, video pre-rolls, audio commercials," claimed Simson. If only it were that easy.

He went so far as to even trot out 'big name artists' who back their decision, people like Michelle Shocked, Twisted Sister's Jay Jay French and Big Star/Golden Smog drummer Jody Stephens. Okay, so they aren't big names, but seeing a renowed indie rocker (and self-described socialist) like Shocked on there is, well, rather shocking. At least we've got Bryan Adams and Talking Heads' David Byrne (a webcaster himself) on our side.

And in a rather sneaky move, Simson offered his own olive branch, claiming that SoundExchange is open to working with webcasters to cut their own deals. But this sounds a bit like cutting a deal with the devil. Soma.FM's Hodge fears that this could open the door to the recording industry to demand their own deals, namely forcing webcasters to play whatever less-than-desirable product they're trying to push down the public's throats, in exchange for relaxed royalty payments. Hodge calls this "Dark Payola," in that it's the opposite of payola but with all the effects. In other words, the RIAA has webcasting by the you-know-whats.

So, what can webcasters and listeners do to support this bill, and to stop this crazy thing perpetrated by the RIAA, SoundExchange and the CRB? Many of the grassroots efforts to fight the CRB ruling have been combined at, which has become a clearing house of information on the proposed royalty rates, and the damage it could do to a growing form of media. The group has pleaded with supporters to contact their representatives in Congress to help support the Internet Radio Equality Act. Webmasters and webcasters alike can go to their website to download banners and recorded PSA's to play on streams. In addition, Kurt Hanson's Radio and Internet Newsletter is the best resource on the internet for the latest on this issue. You can also find more links and resources on the right hand side of this site.

Next Tuesday, May 1, webcasters, musicians, independent record label personnel and others have planned a "Hill Walk" in Washington DC, where small groups of SaveNetRadio coalition members will spend the day going from Congressional office to Congressional office, meeting with members of Congress and their staffs. And on Tuesday May 8, many webcasters will go quiet in a "Day of Silence" to help draw attention to the issue.

LTR, a strong supporter of internet radio, wishes everyone involved in this the very best of luck.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

LTR follows the money

"Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in."

- Michael Corleone, as portrayed by Al Pacino, in The Godfather: Part III

I was hoping what I wrote last week would be the end of it. Every once in a while I just gotta get one of those things out of my system. And I thought I had said all I needed to say about Media Matters for America, George Soros and paranoid right-wing talk show hosts. But sure enough, another reason comes along to write something about it. Here we go again.

A scene we WON'T see on The FactorBill O'Reilly of FOX Noise Channel hates Media Matters. I mean, he really hates them. So much that in the past, he's compared them to the likes of Mao, Castro, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Nazis. He called them "cowards" and "people who are afraid to answer any questions," yet will not allow anyone from MMfA to come on his show to spar with him. And now, MMfA must have really pissed O'Liely off, since he has trotted out his own personal doomsday device. His own neutron bomb. Yes, in his strange personal game of "six degrees of separation," he has a chart that links MMfA to George Soros' deep pockets. With this, he grasps at all the straws he possibly can in proving that, while Soros hasn't directly given money to the group, organizations funded by Soros have themselves sent money to MMfA. Oh the horror!

Only thing is, you'll never hear about why Soros is such a bad man on the "All-Spin Zone." Oh sure, you'll hear accusations of insider trading. Or that he's some kind of radical to the left of Abbie Hoffman. Or that he was a teenage Nazi back in World War II. Or that he's some kind of Dr. Evil, set on world domination (no doubt complete with laserbeam-fitted sharks and his mysterious Alan Parsons Project). Suffice it to say, O'Reilly's gone batshit crazy.

Now, here's a guy, Soros, who's a self-made billionaire, and in turn spent a lot of money fighting communism in Eastern Europe. One would assume that would make him a virtual hero to the right-wing of America. He sounds like a Reagan Republican's dream guy. Only one problem, though - he turned on the Bush Administration. A big no-no. Even after being buddy-buddy with the Bushes in Carlyle Group. Even after Harkin Energy, which Soros was part owner of, bailed out Junior's failed oil company, Soros soured on Dubya's economic and foreign policies. The war in Iraq was the final straw. First, he ran full-page ads in major US newspapers challenging the honesty of the Bush administration's rationale for the war. He also wrote a book, The Bubble of American Supremacy, which criticized the president's foreign policy. Then he pledged to spend up to $30 million to help defeat Bush in the 2004 election, donating nearly $24 million to various political action committees and liberal think tanks. The biggest beneficiaries of Soros' generosity were Americans Coming Together ($10 million), ($2.5 million) and the Center for American Progress ($3 million). It's a rather small list. And no, Media Matters was not on that list. And neither was Air America Radio. Soros basically shot his $30 million load and left. But that $30 million is why the right-wing hates him so much. Or, they're scared shitless of the guy. So much that they're making up myths about this alleged bogeyman.

Michael Savage called Soros "a totally dangerous individual" who "doesn't miss an opportunity to attack this country" and "should be stripped of his citizenship." Right-wing activist David Horowitz, backed by quite a few generous right wing benefactors himself, has made ridiculous claims about Soros' campaign donations. O'Reilly called him "the big left-wing loon who's financing all these smear sites," and added, "They ought to hang this Soros guy." When Soros recently donated $2,100 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, O'Reilly put on his tinfoil hat, oblivious to the fact that Soros once donated the same sum of money to John McCain. He really lives in fear in his belief that Soros is waging a war against him via MMfA. In short, Bill O'Reilly is one big pussy.

But enough about Soros. As I claimed last week, Soros isn't the only one doing it. On the left, there's Progressive Insurance CEO Peter Lewis and a few others. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to the other side. See, on the right, there's a whole ton of people. Some of the names I mentioned in the past, such as cult leader Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch are pretty out in the open. They invest in blatant partisan media geared toward right-wing propaganda. Richard DeVos, founder of the Amway pyramid scheme, has long been one of the biggest contributors to the Republican Party, and his kids have followed suit.

Behind the scenes, though, are a wide variety of billionaires, families, corporations and foundations throwing obscene amounts of money at political action committees, think tanks, media watchdog organizations, lobbying groups, and various propaganda outlets. Many of them stay out of the limelight. In this group, you'll find families like the Coors in Colorado, the Bradleys of Milwaukee, the Olin Foundation and others. They're still giving. But the most effective sugardaddy of them all is in Pittsburgh. The man is Richard Mellon Scaife.

Recall last week when I claimed that Moon was the top fatcat for the New Right. In terms of total spent, he likely is. But Scaife is the one who got the biggest bang for his buck. It's very likely that people like O'Reilly will never talk about right-wing moneymen like Scaife who heavily fund ventures designed to attack the left. Of course he wouldn't. Otherwise, he'll sound like a complete hypocrite. Most wingnuts will never acknowledge the efforts of the Coors, the Bradleys and the Scaifes. Even the Radio Tranquilizer has been whining that they don't have their own Soros or Lewis. Evidently, he's either not doing his homework or there are some things he just refuses to tell his readers. They're just pissy because we're now playing the game on their turf. The usual B.S. you hear is that left-leaning donors are squashing the right-wing with their spending. But that's utterly ridiculous. See, I have decided to track where all that right-wing foundation money goes, and after taking a trip down the rabbit hole, was pretty damned shocked to see where it all wound up. In fact, I struggled like crazy in making a similar chart to the simplistic one that O'Reilly's people coughed up, just because it went in so many directions. Here's a partial chart of what I came up with:

It's time to follow the money.

Now, who is Richard Mellon Scaife? He's an insanely rich man living in Pittsburgh, with interests in banking, oil, uranium and newspapers. Unlike Soros, who earned his own way from a poor immigrant, Scaife made his money the old fashioned way - he inherited it. And while Soros kept reinvesting his money to make more money, in that grand ol' American tradition, Scaife used his money to gain influence, spending roughly a third of his fortune on various right wing causes. Scaife is a man that seems to lurk in the shadows. He's a bit reclusive. He doesn't go on FOX Noise and play pundit. He doesn't write op-eds in the paper. In the grand tradition of Hearst, Hughes and others, he stays out of the limelight.

Even for a newspaper publisher, he's not very media-friendly. When former Wall Street Journal reporter Karen Rothmeyer, denied an interview on several occasions, ran into him on the street and asked him about his donations, an enraged Scaife yelled "You f*cking Communist c*nt, get out of here." In the remaining five minutes of the interview, Scaife told her she was ugly and that her teeth were "terrible." He closed by saying, "Don't look behind you." Wow, now THAT'S unhinged!

"If a liberal politician doesn't toe the Soros line, he or she will be denied funding and brutally attacked. Just ask Senator Joseph Lieberman about what MoveOn and Media Matters did to him," claimed O'Reilly. Yeah, just like Scaife did when Brock was canned for not being mean enough to Hillary Clinton and severed ties to American Spectator when they gave a bad review to a book by one of his henchmen. Pot, say hello to kettle.

Scaife is the Kevin Bacon of the New Right, in that just about anything and everything neocon seems to have connection to him, within even fewer degrees. So, how much has he forked over to prop up the right-wing? By 1999, according to the Washington Post, Scaife's foundations have forked over $340 million dollars to conservative causes and groups. Again, this is just Scaife we're talking about here. Granted, Scaife isn't forking it over like he used to, but thanks to his past efforts, the groups that he's given to are the ones now paying it forward.

To start with, Scaife made a shady donation of $990,000 to the 1972 re-election campaign of Richard Nixon. Due to loopholes, he wasn't charged with a crime, but roughly $45,000 of that went to a fund linked to the Watergate scandal. Quite a beginning there, Dick!

Scaife and ClintonWhat really got Scaife hot though was a semi-obscure Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton. Fearing that this guy actually stood a decent chance of beating Bush I in the 1992 election, Scaife brought out all the guns. He was a major backer of The American Spectator, a right-wing magazine that was planning an all-out smear campaign now commonly referred to as "The Arkansas Project." The purpose was to find out anything about Clinton, and if that wasn't good enough, just make stuff up. This is where stuff like Paula Jones came from. And later Whitewater, the suicide of Vince Foster (which they tried to paint as a murder), and whatever else they could pull out of their asses. The purpose was to force Clinton from office and endlessly dog and harass him and his family. This was with the help of Scaife's own personal attack dog reporter, Christopher Ruddy, who later founded In other words, lots of time and effort was spent in trying to topple a presidency, an act that could theoretically be considered treason. Scaife sunk a ton of his own money into these ventures, reportedly almost $2 million dollars (not counting money he gave to then-House Speaker and Clinton antagonist Newt Gingrich's various groups), giving Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr a lot to work with. Ironically (or not), Scaife endowed a new school of public policy at Pepperdine University, and Starr was named its first dean. A controversy brewed, and Starr turned it down, before accepting it again in 2004.

Ironically, Scaife indirectly helped fund MMfA, since founder David Brock was a top writer for American Spectator at the time of the Arkansas Project, and was paid handsomely to lash out at the Clintons with various ridiculous claims. Following an eventual change of heart and his brave decision to publicly declare his sexual orientation, Brock drifted toward the other side and founded MMfA, obviously using some of the money paid to him from the Spectator's coffers. We can thank Scaife in part for that.

Like many other conservative sugardaddies, Scaife sunk money into other ventures. The American Enterprise Institute was another big benefactor, and they in turn helped prop up the epicenter of neo-conservatism, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), as well as the Federalist Society, which could be seen as the starting point for conservative trash-talker Ann Coulter. Coulter's scating columns have since been published in various Scaife media ventures.

And while O'Reilly and his ilk constantly charge that Soros funds MMfA, several conservative-leaning media watchdogs have stuck their hands in Scaife's cookie jar. Directly. The Center for Media and Public Affairs is one, and the ironically-titled Accuracy in Media is another beneficiary. You remember AIM, right? They were out front in the whole Vince Foster conspiracy. But the most well-known of these watchdogs is the Media Research Center (MRC), headed by Brent Bozell, complete with a $6 million annual budget and 60 staff members. And they've even branched out, starting their very own news organization, the Cybercast (formerly Conservative) News Service (CNS). They were the ones that claimed they had proof of Saddam Hussein's WMD's. In addition, the MRC started up a MMfA-type blog, MRC's affiliate, the Parents Television Council (PTC), is similar in nature. The MRC has also helped encourage the efforts of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose purpose was to dog John Kerry with lies and vague accusations during the 2004 presidential campaign. And unlike MMfA, the MRC/PTC has actually taken their fight against liberalism to the government, in the form of various complaints to the FCC.

Scaife has also thrown money at right-wing news organizations. Besides his ownership of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he presently has an ownership stake in He donated to Heritage Society and Moral Majority founder Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, which in turn started an ill-fated conservative TV network, National Empowerment Television (later America's Voice), a venture that turned out to be a financial sinkhole that nobody watched. He also sent $330,000 directly to the Western Journalism Center, which helped start Joseph Farah's

Scaife sent money to the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a group founded by former Marxist-turned-right wing activist David Horowitz. Horowitz in turn started, Discover the Networks, which tracks funding to and from left-leaning causes, and most curiously, the Matt Drudge Defense Fund, which supported him in a lawsuit a few years back. Needless to say, Drudge knows who his sugardaddy is.

Lately, Scaife has been a buyer of buyer of books, in mass quantities. Ever wonder about those high rankings on the New York Times bestseller lists for conservative books? Or those conservative book clubs offering titles for ridiculously low prices? Thank Scaife for that, since he buys in bulk. Particularly titles from Regnery Press, which publishes the work of Michelle Malkin, David Limbaugh and most famously, "Unfit for Command," which helped jumpstart that "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" thing a few years back. Ah, yes - another connection to the Swift Nuts!

And Scaife also contributed money and resources to the Council for National Policy, a secretive networking group that counts among its members a who's-who of the New Right, including Bozell, Moon, DeVos, Pat Robertson, Donald Wildmon, Jerry Falwell, Grover Norquist, disgraced congressman Tom DeLay, Senator Trent Lott, Tommy Thompson and others. Whew!

Needless to say, Scaife gets around. And it's not just him either. The names of Coors and Bradley also pop up here and there. But for head marionette status, nobody can top Scaife. Sure, he didn't make much financial return on these investments, but for overall influence and power, he most certainly got his money's worth. So when people like O'Reilly piss and moan about the right wing being horribly underfunded, we can all laugh at him. Or when Brian Maloney whines on his fact-lacking blog about the lack of a Soros or Lewis on his side (that is, when he's not writing ridiculous entries about Sheryl Crow and toilet paper - which is a fitting topic for him, since he is kind of an asswipe anyway), then we can point him in the right direction and he can stop begging his readers to send him money. So consider this a helpful tool for the right. That's right, I'm providing a service here. Because, if you get all your news from Rush Limbaugh, the FOX Noise Channel and AM radio, you'll likely never know about the Coors, or the Bradleys, or the John M. Olin Foundation, or Jeremiah Milbank, or ExxonMobil, or Lockheed Martin, or any of the other 'philanthropists', foundations, corporations or other sugardaddies and fatcats.

And certainly not Richard Mellon Scaife.

In an ironic footnote, the Scaife Family Foundation is now under the control of his daughter Jennie, and the focus has changed quite a bit. Much of the money currently goes to nonpolitical projects such as medical programs, drug treatment and animal welfare. They also send money to Planned Parenthood, though against her father's wishes. Hey, at least there's still all those other donors, foundations and think tanks, provided they haven't jumped ship already. But thanks to the infrastructure provided by the likes of Scaife, they can all sail on autopilot for a long time to come.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Big changes for Air America

Air America Radio today announced a few big changes both to its program roster and to its infrastructure, with some upcoming moves.

First, a revamp of the on-air schedule, effective May 21:

  • Mark Riley moves from 5-6A to 8p-Midnight ET, hosting "The Air Americans" with "Ring of Fire" hosts Robert Kennedy, Jr and Mike Papantonio, current "Politically Direct" host David Bender and "RadioNation" host Laura Flanders.

  • Jon Elliot gets bumped to the Midnight-3AM shift, giving the network a live presence in the early morning hours.

  • Randi Rhodes' replay will air 3-6A weekday mornings.

  • "EcoTalk" appears to be history

  • And of course, Lionel arrives for the 9-Noon shift starting May 14.

  • Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, Rachel Maddow and The Young Turks stay put.

    On the weekends, there are also a few changes:

  • Mark Green gets his own show, "This Week In America", featuring panelists Ariana Huffington and Bob Kerrey. This 'week-in-review' show will air 6-7P ET Saturdays.

  • As reported yesterday, Marc Sussman's investment show will air 9-10A ET Saturday mornings.

  • "Clout," a new two hour show with Richard Greene, will air 8-10P ET on Saturdays

  • Sam Seder returns for a Sunday afternoon show

  • "RadioNation" with Laura Flanders gets a makeover and will be a one-hour show on Sunday afternoons.

  • "Ring of Fire" will now be a three hour show on Saturday afternoons, with a Sunday replay.

  • "Our line-up combines the best of proven radio stars like Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, Rachel Maddow and The Young Turks along with new programming that broadens and deepens Air America's reach," claimed network president Mark Green. "When people ask what Air America 2.0 means, they'll hear the answer on May 21."

    In addition, Air America announced a new advertising sales deal with Westwood One, which will replace a similar 3-year deal they had with Jones MediaAmerica, which terminates next month. Westwood One will oversee all of Air America's network and affiliate ad sales, in conjunction with the network's in-house affiliate relations department, effective June 1.

    "Because WW1 is such a renowned network ad and affiliate sales firm," said Air America COO Scott Elberg, "it's obviously exciting that Westwood One will be a vital part of AAR 2.0. We appreciated Jones Media's past work and now look forward to a new effort behind the new Air America."

    "We're pleased that the new ownership and management of Air America is looking to us to expand their audience and secure their success of being informative, entertaining talk programming," said WWI Executive VP/Chief Marketing Officer Roby Wiener.

    You can read the official press release here.

    Miller gets the nod next week on MSNBC

    Since ditching Don Imus a few weeks back, MSNBC has gone with a carousel of radio talk show hosts in the morning slot. This past week it was Philadelphia's Michael Smerconish, and next week, Stephanie Miller takes the hotseat.

    She will be on MSNBC Monday through Wednesday of next week, and reports that "the network is hoping to build Stephanie into a major face of the network."

    Of course, this will be temporary, and Miller does not have the gig permanently with the network. MSNBC will air various shows in the morning slot in coming weeks, with Tony Kornheiser rumored as a future fill-in. The plan is to do her nationally syndicated radio show earlier for the MSNBC audience, then air it on delay for radio several hours later.

    There is nor word on whether there is some sort of restraining order keeping her away from Keith Olbermann.

    Tuesday, April 24, 2007


    Original LTR banner

    To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, strange trip it's been.

    On the night of October 12, 2004, LTR officially opened for business, with a simple post:


    The purpose of this blog is to report on and help promote a new form of talk radio - a form that leans toward the left. I hope you enjoy and visit often.

    Two and a half years, five hundred articles and posts later, LTR lives on. This is the 500th entry on this very blog.

    Early readers of LTR were greeted with what is perhaps still the most comprehensive listing of radio stations airing liberal talk programming. They also were able to read about news, rumors, profiles and a heavy amount of information about the format. LTR didn't restrict itself to just liberal talk radio. Early articles covered things such as a start-up cable TV venture called INdTV (which later renamed itself Current), the plight of webcasting, the propaganda wars leading up to the 2004 election, Howard Stern's ongoing battles with the FCC and much more.

    So, why did I start this crazy thing? At the time, I was a mere observer of the format, and often posted about it on sites like Democratic Underground. As a veteran of the radio industry, I have always kept up on the business, and continued to write about it. Somewhere along the line came this off-the-wall idea to put it all in a blog.

    I was inspired by other media blogs. TVNewser has long been a great blog, giving excellent coverage of the TV News business. And I've always admired Northpine, which covers radio and TV broadcasting in the upper midwestern states and grew out of old Prodigy postings back in the early 90s. Today, it still is a treasure trove of old news and information archives, as well as current happenings. I wanted to do something like that.

    In addition, we all remember how screwed up Air America Radio's affiliate listings were. In their early days, they even listed stations that didn't exist! It was a pretty sloppy list, and I felt that it would be a good idea to provide my own listing of stations, even ones that didn't carry Air America product. Somebody had to take matters into their own hands, and that somebody turned out to be me.

    Furthermore, there really wasn't anything like this around at the time. And whatever sites and blogs existed were right-wing attack blogs. We all know that these types of blogs often tend to be inaccurate and full of nonsensical spin. Something had to be done.

    Hence, LTR was born.

    The blog grew little by little, at first getting about 50 hits a day. The writing was admittedly a bit crude and stuck mostly to the facts. Nothing fancy here. Luckily, the name that was picked was a good one, since it enabled high placement on Google listings (if you type in "liberal talk radio" in Google, you'll see LTR near the top, just below Air America and above Thom Hartmann, who owns the URL, which I had initially looked into obtaining). Soon, LTR grew further, and apart from a brief period a year ago when news was slow, the format was stagnant and I neglected it, LTR has been on a climb ever since.

    Last Summer was a newsworthy time for the world of liberal talk. As the midterm election races were heating up, Air America fans were shocked and enraged when the network suddenly fired one of its most beloved hosts, Mike Malloy. A few weeks later came rumblings about the network being on the verge of bankruptcy, and a month later, they did just that.

    Nonetheless, LTR charged along. Readership increased drastically, as LTR was the first to bring readers several breaking news stories. We were the first to write about The Mic's plans to drop liberal talk, a story that started a massive groundswell of grassroots support and even made headlines around the world. We were among the first to report on the infamous ABC Radio 'blacklist' and perhaps the first to really make sense of it.

    LTR was the first blog to report on Lionel replacing Sam Seder at Air America. And we covered much talked-about topics, such as the problems radio salespeople had in selling the format, station and network turmoil, conservative misinformation and outright lies and hypocrisy and many other subjects. LTR even went outside the liberal talk box with reports on audio technology and the recent threat endangering webcasting as we know it.

    People in the business became readers of or cited LTR on their sites, and I even got email from people at Air America, Nova M Radio and other places and people such as Tom Athans, Thom Hartmann and countless other local and national hosts and executives. Station owners, program directors and managers even started reading, even Michael Zwerling of KOMY in Santa Cruz, who actually enjoyed an article I had written trashing him (and which helped me gain a newfound respect for him, even if I still think some of his business practices are ridiculous).

    In the past year, readership of LTR has skyrocketed immensely. Whereas last April, when this blog got roughly a thousand hits a month, this April sees LTR hitting 30,000. A few weeks ago, when LTR broke news of Lionel's hiring, a single-day record of 13,000 hits occurred. As of this writing, LTR gets an average of 500-700 readers a day and climbing. Last week, LTR welcomed its 100,000 visit, only three months after hitting the 50,000 mark.

    LTR isn't really a political blog. There are sites that do that much better than I can. It isn't a clearing house for conservative misinformation. Media Matters and FAIR more than handle that. It's just a simple blog about liberal talk radio, alternative and advancing forms of media, a massive compilation of resources and information, silly graphics and humorous parody pics, and a little bit of fun. And that's good enough for me.

    So here it is. Post #500. And this one is dedicated to all of you who have taken the time to visit, read, link to and even spread LTR. And to those of you who helped support this insane little hobby of mine via Amazon purchases and whatnot. Thank you very much.

    If you'd like to take a stroll down memory lane and see how this thing looked in the early days, you can check out some very early pages at the Internet Archive.

    Lee Rayburn? Whodat?

    Dane101 and I have at least one thing in common. Namely we both took curious notice when old articles about a former Madison talk radio host started getting a heavy number of hits, and most of them from Google with search terms such as "Lee Rayburn" and "Air America."

    Well, there's a reason for that, since former WXXM Madison morning host Lee Rayburn has been guest-hosting Sam Seder's former show since last week, and will continue to do so until new permanent host Lionel takes over in mid-May.

    Rayburn's tenure on WXXM (92.1 The Mic) ended last fall when the station announced a pending flip to a sports talk format. The outcry from angry listeners was massive, as they rallied to save the decently-rated station and even did something that local Clear Channel account executives evidently couldn't - they rounded up a ton of new sponsors. In the end, station management backpedaled and The Mic survived.

    The station is still around, but management has yet to return most of the displaced local programming, they're still not overly confident in the format, and they even block off Friday and Saturday nights for music and programming aimed at a Mexican audience. Plus, while the station has attracted quite a few new clients in previous months, partly due to efforts from the station's supporters, management is still underwhelmed, as they want more big, national clients to buy airtime as opposed to local businesses. Let's just say that The Mic's format is on a tight leash.

    But Lee Rayburn is still around. In recent months, he launched Willy Street Media and has been doing fill-in shifts for various Air America hosts, particularly Rachel Maddow and Sam Seder. And for the month leading up to the start of Lionel's show, he will be a full-fledged host on Air America Radio. WOIC in Columbia, SC even carries "Best of Lee Rayburn" on Saturdays. The network even gave him voice imaging for his show, and his own show banner on the website, which, in typical Air America fashion, is a link to a show web page that doesn't exist.

    Rayburn probably won't get his own weekday show on the network following this guesting gig, but he'll likely be kept in a stable of frequent guest hosts, a list that also includes Stacy Taylor of KLSD San Diego, former KTLK L.A. host Cary Harrison and most likely Seder himself.

    You can hear Rayburn weekday mornings from 9A-noon ET.

    Monday, April 23, 2007

    Returning Air America show is all about the money

    "Green America" is coming back.

    No, it's not a show about the environment. Not that kind of green. In this case, it's about money green.

    Air America Radio is returning progressive financial planner Marc Sussman’s personal finance call-in program "Green America" to their schedule next month, starting Saturday, May 19, at 9AM ET.

    Sussman is a long-time veteran of the financial services industry, with 29 years under his belt. Today, he runs a financial planning business. "Green America" was on Air America and former flagship station WLIB from September 2005 to last October. The show apparently didn't have much of a national presence on the network, and was relegated mostly to WLIB. Since then, he has continued the show, via the internet as well as recently on current Air America flagship station WWRL. As it appears, this time it will actually be a full-fledged part of Air America's lineup and will also be on their XM channel. Good thing, since Air America could use some good financial advice (okay, I had to say it!).

    According to his official bio, a few years back, Sussman had an epiphany of sorts, and discovered the importance of taking a socially responsible approach to investing. “ We have to live with integrity, and demand the same from the people we do business with. What we stand for as people, and where we place our investment dollars should be consistent,” says Sussman. His objective is financial strategies that are profitable and have social integrity. And he advocates putting the “common good” ahead of corporate gain and thinks that investors can “raise their own financial standards in ways that are both ethical and personally enriching.” While most radio finance shows are about profits at any cost, Sussman's show will be quite different.

    Likely, thick-headed conservodorks will scoff at this type of programming, assuming that they own that field and liberals shouldn't be giving advice on how to manage money. Obviously, they disregard how the Bush Administration turned Clinton's record surplus into a record deficit. Or how conservative media ventures such as the Washington Times, the New York Post and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review hemmhorage millions and millions of dollars yearly. But I'm going off topic. Just a little preemptive strike to swat away the comment trolls.

    Hey, if there can be a progressive radio show dedicated to taking back faith and spirituality from radical Christian conservatives, such as "State of Belief," why not a pro-capitalism show dedicated to progressive and ethical investing and economicsa? I say take it back, since the other side is obviously failing with it.

    "Green America" starts Saturday May 19 at 9AM on Air America. In the meantime, you can check out archives of previous shows at Progressive Radio Network.

    Sunday, April 22, 2007

    John Loftus gets the boot

    It was an experiment that obviously failed.

    Turns out that former federal prosecutor and CIA attorney John Loftus and upstart liberal talk radio network Nova M Radio were just not a very good match. Loftus' weeknight show has been canceled by Nova M, with the final show airing this past Friday.

    Loftus was signed by the network last November, and his show debuted in late February. Since then, Loftus was moved from his 8-9PM ET perch to later in the night, following the Mike Malloy show at Midnight. Listener reaction has been far from overwhelming. In fact, they really hated the guy.

    Turns out that, while Loftus is a highly intelligent man who has written books and has a vast knowledge of middle east affairs, he was a bit too hawkish on a potential war with Iran, among other things (I'm walking a fine line here in trying to prevent Israel/Arab flamewars from breaking out in the comments section, so don't even think it!). Many people didn't like Loftus' Liebermanesque approach to world politics. Let's just say that his show mixed with Nova M's Mike Malloy like oil and water. It just didn't work.

    Meanwhile, Nova M is still hard at work developing other programming, particularly on the weekends. Pollster John Zogby is on the air Friday evenings at 6PM with Jeff Farias with "Pulse of the Nation." Among other weekend offerings are Ernest Hancock's "Declare Your Independence" and a new show from frequent Malloy caller Herb 'Sarge' Phelps that will concentrate heavily on the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina.

    Incidentally, as reported here the other day, Nova M Radio has video highlights of their birthday bash from last week. You can find those on their YouTube group.

    Friday, April 20, 2007

    The definitive Air America stream links list

    Well, the dust has settled and the smoke has cleared since Air America Radio updated their webstreams. And LTR has finally figured the whole damn thing out.

    Air America's most recent streaming woes were reported here back in March via this post and this post. What happened is that the network changed stream hosts, leading to a period of several week where many irate and confused listeners were trying to figure out why they could not get the direct streams to work. LTR came to the rescue with links to streams of various affiliates, and was able to list 1-3 separate stations for each. That problem has since been resolved, though there have been some recent reports of media player makers such as iTunes not updating their links. If that's still the case, you should be able to direct post the new stream links in each player and bookmark them.

    What it boils down to is that Air America currently has two basic streams. There's one for Windows Media Player and an mp3 stream that works in Winamp, iTunes and RealPlayer, among others. You can access the stream of your choice at either of these two links:

    Windows Media Player


    Now, bear in mind that these streams will open in whichever media player you have set as your default. For example, in my case, I have Winamp set as my all-around media player. The current incarnation of Winamp will play many Windows Media Player files, therefore, the WMP stream will open up Winamp. Same with the mp3 stream, which it always has. If you have iTunes or RealPlayer set as your default for mp3 streams, the mp3 stream will open in either one of those players. As far as I know, neither of these media players will play WMP streams. You may run into the same situation with Windows Media Player. If you need to set a default player, you can do that with the 'options' or 'preferences' tab in your player of choice. Got all that?

    Air America also has a browser-based player, in case you prefer listening through your web browser or if you are unable to listen through a separate player.

    Furthermore, on the left side of the page, where all the individual shows and timeslots are listed, there are other streams for each listed. I have left up the links to WWRL in New York, which airs most of the network's schedule, therefore serving as a pretty decent alternate. And there are a few other individual affiliate streams listed as well, just in case.

    So, a typical listing on the left side of this page may look like this:

    Lee Rayburn 9A-12P WebstreamWeb-based WWRL RealAudio StreamWindows Media Player StreamWindows Media Player Streammp3 Winamp/Real/iTunes StreamKEUN WebstreamKPTK Podcast feed link

    Let's break it all down. First, there is a link to the host or show, in this case fill-in host Lee Rayburn, who is listed as the temporary host of the shift on Air America's site. Next is the time the show airs, eastern time zone. Following that are cute little icons, which , by clicking, will open up a direct webstream. First is a little Webstream. That denotes the browser-based Air America player. You can choose between the WMP or mp3 stream at that link. The next Web-based WWRL RealAudio Stream is the web-based browser for WWRL in New York. Following that are two Windows icons. The first Windows Media Player Stream is Air America's WMP stream, which will open in a separate media player, followed by another Windows Media Player Stream for WWRL, which does likewise.

    The next icon is mp3 Winamp/Real/iTunes Stream, which denotes an mp3 stream that can be opened up in most media players, including Winamp, iTunes and RealPlayer. The next KEUN Webstream is a radio station webstream, this one for the browser-based player for KEUN in Lafayette, LA. And finally, there's a KPTK Podcast feed link, which denotes a podcast feed for those of you unable to listen live and wish to tune in later. Now, in this particular case, this podcast link may be outdated, but most of the other ones should still be active. Some hosts archive their shows on their websites, and that will be denoted. Also, many of Air America's feeds are subscription-based, so the link will direct you to their site for downloading information. Same with the Nova M Radio shows like Mike Malloy. I'll go through this weekend and update all of these.

    So there ya go. All you ever needed to know about how to listen to Air America and other progressive talk programming on the internets. Cool, huh? If you have any questions, concerns, corrections or other updates, then go right ahead and post them in comments below.

    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    The wingnut media meltdown

    If you really desire to find out more proof that conservatives are thin-skinned hypocritical chickenshits, then by all means, read on.

    In the aftermath of the whole Don Imus controversy, conservotalk radio goons have their undies in a bunch. They're scared their little party is going to come to a crashing halt. As playing the 'blame game' has always been their trademark, they're trotting out Hillary Clinton, George Soros, the mainstream media and all the other usual suspects. This time, though, the main target of their ire is media watchdog group Media Matters for America.

    They claim MMfA has a hitlist. And they're frightened that MMfA won't stop until they take down every right-wing radio host with access to a microphone. In other words, they're scared shitless. They're also claiming that the group endlessly monitors right-wing radio and TV shows, scouring the broadcasts for even the slightest infraction, report on it, and then blitz the mainstream media with their findings. Well, no shit sherlock! They certainly don't hide that fact. And isn't that the same thing you guys do?

    Several things are always evident during any wingnut smear campaign. The name of George Soros often pops up. He's their top bogeyman. In fact, they claim that he's funded virtually every anti-wingnut and anti-George W. Bush internet and media venture out there, from Air America to MMfA. Well, we all know he opted not to invest in Air America, and MMfA has claimed time and time again that they've never received funding from George Soros. The closest remote connection between the two is that a few groups that received donations from Soros in turn helped out MMfA, minus Soros' involvement. The only activist ventures Soros is known to have invested in are the Center for America Progress, MoveOn, America Coming Together and the Democracy Alliance, in addition to the usual political donations. Granted, Soros is an interesting character. I've always been somewhat suspicious of his involvement in Carlyle Group, perhaps the tightest of the tightest of private equity funds, one who's members consist of or have consisted of the Saudi Royal Family, James Baker III, former defense secretary Frank Carlucci, former Time Magazine editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstine, the bin Laden family (yes, THAT bin Laden family) and, of course, both George Bushes. But again, what's the big deal about Soros anyway? Well, the wingnuts will never tell you he did anything shady, because, apart from some insider trading accusations, he hasn't really done anything evil like blow up buildings, fund Hezbollah, slaughter kittens or eat babies.

    Endorsed by yours trulyFats Lowbrow er, Rush Limbaugh was among the first to play the Soros card. And for equal measure, he threw out the name of Hillary Clinton, almost as if sending a subconscious message to the nimble-minded Manchurian Candidates who listen to his show. According to Drugbo the Hut, MMfA is a "Stalinist" organization (doesn't Godwin's Law cover that tired commie cliche as an instant argument killer?) and part of the "Clinton machine agenda." He claimed that Imus was taken down by MMfA because he was critical of Hillary Clinton. "This is an election year. Clinton Inc., you get on their case, they're going to take you out." Limbaugh continued, "When I say the Clinton team, I include Media Matters for America, this supposed tax-exempt media watchdog group," adding, falsely, "They are George Soros-funded. This is clearly part of the 'Democrat' (sic) Party machine." Oxymoron had absolutely no shame in his lashing, claiming that Democrats are anti-Semitic, racist, totalitarian and are engaged in smear tactics.

    click here to see Rush's booking sheet!Oh, and he even had the balls to use phrases like 'draft dodger' and "philanderer," evidentially with no sense of personal irony whatsoever. Well, at least he didn't say "drug addict." Irony is always in abundant supply on Limbaugh's show. He claims to take the high road, and that he is "not demeaning people on this program in any way." Yeah, right.

    Savage's happy hippy daysMichael Savage Weiner claims MMfA is "run by a homosexual activist who hates anybody in the media who does not kowtow to the homosexual agenda." He had previously referred to Media Matters as "a gay website that attacks me every day" and called Brock "a psychopath." All of this sounds pretty ironic for a guy who used to write overly friendly letters to and skinny-dipped with beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg. It really makes one wonder whether Weiner's, er Savage's reactionary radio shtick is all just an act.

    Oh, the company one keeps...One radio loudmouth who really is putting on an act is Tammy Bruce. The wingnut blogs are absolutely drooling over her appearance on Bill O'Reilly's show a few days ago on FOX 'News' where she claimed that there is a left-wing 'hit list' on conservojocks, and they're coming to put them all out of work. But let's call it like it is - Bruce is a fraud. She's not really a conservative. In fact, she started out doing liberal radio, until her job prospects started to look somewhat grim. Then, this pro-choice, pro-gay rights lesbian feminist shifted abruptly to the right, metamorphosing into some sort of 'conservative-but-not-really-conservative'. Or, as she describes herself, an "openly gay, pro-choice, gun owning, pro-death penalty, voted-for-President Bush progressive feminist." Her political orientation shifts back and forth with the breeze, adapting her outlook to whatever suits her arguments, employment prospects or FOX 'News' facetime. In other words, she flip-flops more than Mitt Romney. Newsflash to all wingnuts - she's a phony.

    Now, is there a problem with this? I accept this as fact in the radio industry. Let's be real here - it's all show business anyway. Talk radio at times seems no different than professional wrestling, ridiculous braggadocio and all. This is commonly referred to in the wrestling business by terms such as 'work' or 'kayfabe.' Where two menacing thugs go out and beat the living shit out of each other, steal each others' girlfriends and blow up each others' cars on TV every week, yet go out for beers and share steroid needles after the show is over. Talk radio is similar, except for the exploding cars and physical violence. Bruce is all kayfabe. When Limbaugh exploded on the national radio scene, I thought the same, like he's doing a parody of a conservative moron. And to be honest, I thought he was pretty good at it. Over time, I think he started believing his own bullshit, thanks to fame and all that money. At least the money his three ex-wives haven't taken. Same with Sean Hannity, who often sounds like he's reading straight from the RNC faxes. Most likely, these guys are probably putting on an act to some degree, call it 'whoring for dollars.' The sad reality is that, unlike wrestling which we all know is a put-on, radio listeners actually think all of what these folks say is legit.

    Bozell, in a quieter momentAnd these types of conservative gasbags, in increasingly widespread delusions of paranoia, are once again playing the victim, claiming that Hillary, Soros, the media (which they are a part of anyway) and organizations like MMfA are out to squash them like the bugs they are. What they fail to mention is that MMfA wasn't even there first. Actually, they got the idea from the wingnuts themselves. James Dobson and his righteous ilk have been attacking the media and the entertainment industry for decades. Hotheaded wingnut Brent Bozell was next in 1987 with his Media Research Center (and later, sister blog NewsBusters). And there's more where that came from, in the form of 'Accuracy' in Media. Sure, they claim to be neutral, but they're always out front in claiming liberal media bias, while rarely attacking conservatives. And guess what? All of these groups do the exact same thing that they accuse MMfA of doing. Pot, say hello to kettle. But hey, it's all a 'work' anyway, right? Just like pro wrestling.

    Scaife and Clinton (tail between Scaife's legs not shown)And as far as deep-pocketed political sugar daddies go, Soros is a Johnny-come-lately to the party. Conservatives and Republican'ts for years have been relying on eccentric moneymen to help squash anyone who stands in their way. Ever hear of Richard Mellon Scaife? This trust fund baby used some of his $1 billion inheritance to lash out at all things non-conservative. He made borderline illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign. He sent money to right-wing think tanks and political action committees. He bought a little newspaper in the Pittsburgh suburbs and turned it into an ultra-conservative attack rag. He threw money at magazines like the American Spectator, which in turn funded the Arkansas Project, a nefarious group whose sole purpose from the early 1990s onward was to dig up as much dirt on Bill Clinton as humanly possible. Scaife even funded this shady venture directly, and in many ways oversaw it. Ironically, one key journalist used in the smear campaign was none other than then-American Spectator writer David Brock, who later renounced his sordid muckraking past and flipped to the other side, founding MMfA. In essence, here was Scaife, a goofy billionaire who, with a right-wing group, was trying to overthrow the presidency. Hey, isn't that treason? Funny we don't hear Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Savage and Bruce talk about this crazy rich guy trying to silence the opposition. But I guess it would be a bit difficult to work that into a conversation on a daily three hour program, right? Oh, and Scaife himself directly sent money to the Media Research Center, further making this whole Soros thing moot.

    The power of influenceWant more? Well, there's more where Scaife came from. Perhaps the grandaddy of them all is Sun Myung Moon, Korean leader of the Unification Church, an organization considered by many to be a high-powered cult. When authorities started to come down on his massive financial empire in the 1970s for fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion offenses, Moon sought to make some high-powered friends. He aligned himself with Republicans such as Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. In the ultimate suck-up gesture to the GOP, he gave them their own newspaper, the Washington Times, on which he has spent over a billion dollars on over the past two decades without ever seeing a profit. Not to worry, since he can always bilk more out of his followers anyway. Ironically, his efforts have been defended in the past by the ACLU, another frequent target of the conservative movement.

    And, need I mention Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch, who went down the same media road as Moon, minus the cult and the lawbreaking? We're all too familiar with that story, and he's kind of a lightweight compared to some of these other characters.

    But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I could mention that the conservative movement has always been propped up by generous sugardaddies like Richard DeVos, founder of the Amway pyramid scheme, and countless others including many, many oil companies, media owners and defense contractors. But this article is getting way too long and off-track, so it's best that it come to a close.

    So, wingnuts can go ahead and attack MMfA, Soros, Hillary, the media and all their other usual punching bags. But before they do, perhaps it's best that they take a good, hard look in the mirror at themselves and the people they're talking to. Their ideals are propped up by the billions of dollars coming from a traitor, a felonious Korean cult leader and a pyramid scheme ripoff artist. They'll realize that they're not so high and mighty after all. It's just them whining and ranting like the conservative crybabies they are.

    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    Sarge gets his own show on Nova M Radio

    Listeners to Mike Malloy's nighttime show on Nova M Radio are likely familiar with regular caller Herb 'Sarge' Phelps, a listener from Jackson, Mississippi who often discusses the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina. Now, Sarge has parlayed this into a show of his own.

    Sarge made the announcement on Unfiltered News Network:

    I was offered a show on Nova M Radio and of course I was thrilled to accept it. The first show will air Sunday at 10 A.M. Eastern, 9 Central. The show name as understand it, will be UnreportedNews.Net and will be recorded until I move to Phoenix then it will be live. I am very excited about it. The show will focus on Katrina and my first guest will be Jim Yancey of the Jackson County Community Services Coalition.

    Hope it will be a show everyone will like and we can all enjoy it as much I will enjoy doing it. Thanks everyone for this opportunity and I will try hard to give you something you will be proud of.

    Elsewhere in Nova M Land, the upstart network threw itself a little birthday bash in Phoenix this past Sunday, with Mike Malloy, Thom Hartmann, Stephanie Miller and over 1600 listeners and supporters in attendence. You can see some pictures from the event at KPHX's website (coming soon) or at Democratic Underground.

    UPDATE 4/20: Yes, there is video! Nova M put up a nine part epic consisting of all the fun and frivolity. Check it out on Nova M's page, or you can find all of it and more at LTR's YouTube group.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    KHRO makes the switch

    Well, it finally happened.

    After rumors began surrounding the fate of Air America programming on KHRO in El Paso, TX, the station finally made the switch yesterday. In place of liberal talk, the station is now playing oldies. KHRO is retaining their two locally-produced talk shows hosted by Paul Strelzin and David Karlrusher.

    Local management of the Entravision-owned station, including general manager David Candelaria, did not explain their decision to dump Air America. In fact, they neglected to even tell their employees.

    "I didn't know we were going to flip (the station) today," said promotions director Abel Rodriguez referring to the format change.

    Strelzin himself said he was left in the dark about the decision.

    "I'm glad to be on the air, but I think (the change) was handled childishly," Strelzin told his radio audience in an obvious dig at his bosses.

    Some listeners called Strelzin's program to lash out against the management of the radio station.

    "We're going to write letters to your boss," said an agitated caller. Another listener wrote to say the decision was a "travesty."

    Yes, that's KHRO's website!Of course, the newspaper mentions that KHRO had difficulty selling advertising for the format. But as always, they never seek out the probable reason for this. KHRO seems like a rather half-assed operation, with a joke of a website, little management involvement, and little promotional presence. The only time anyone ever heard anything about KHRO were on the occasions where they were thinking about dumping the format. In addition, the market demographics worked against it, since the market consists of roughly 82% people of Hispanic origin.

    You can read more about KHRO's handling of the format here.

    Olbermann joins "Football Night In America"

    Fans of Countdown with Keith Olbermann will be delighted to know that the program's host has been named by NBC to co-host their Sunday night NFL pregame show Football Night In America starting this fall.

    Following that big contract extension he received to continue to continue to host Countdown, the network is working to get its money's worth. NBC Universal Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol announced yesterday that Olbermann will be joining host Bob Costas, co-host Cris Collinsworth, analysts Jerome Bettis and Tiki Barber and reporter Peter King. This assignment marks Olbermann's first network sports assignment in six years.

    "Keith helped to elevate the medium of sports television earlier in his career, and now he will add his original style and flair to Football Night in America," said Ebersol. "I'm delighted to welcome him back into the NBC Sports family."

    "This will, obviously, be great fun and a great privilege for me," said Olbermann. "To be reunited with NBC Sports, and Dick, and the entire production team, produces all the warm-and-fuzzies you'd be expecting. And even if they weren't old friends and colleagues, to get to work with the nonpareil of sportscasters in Bob, and the most insightful and honest of sports analysts in Cris, will be rewarding and challenging. I hope I can hold up my end of the equation."

    As die-hard fans know, Olbermann has a vast amount of experience in sports broadcasting, having been co-host of ESPN's SportsCenter from 1992-1997 with Dan Patrick (Olbermann appears daily on Patrick's ESPN Radio show). In 1997, Olbermann moved over to NBC in 1997 and did double duty in news (for both MSNBC and NBC) and sports (the World Series). Tired of the whole Monica Lewinsky thing, he worked at FOX Sports from 1997 to 2001 and worked with CNN and ABC Radio (doing sports) before returning to NBC in 2002. Over the years, he has written several books about both sports and news, with his first, "The Major League Coaches", penned at the age of 14. Olbermann's main sports passion is baseball, but is extremely knowledgeable in all competitive sports. He has also written about sports for The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated and Playboy.

    And a double congratulations are in order as well, since TV Week, in its annual ranking, yesterday named Olbermann one of the Top Ten Most Powerful People in TV News for 2007, besting the likes of Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Matt Lauer, not to mention everyone at FOX 'News' besides Roger Ailes (ranked #1). Jon Stewart of The Daily Show also made the list, appearing at #10.

    Also, fans of his most recent book, "The Worst Person in the World" will be happy to know that a new book, based on his Countdown "Special Comments," will be published next winter.

    No doubt some are not happy about Olbermann's presence on NBC's football coverage. I guess these guys aren't ready for some football. Wingnuts everywhere are likely wondering how fair it is that Olbermann gets to go where Rush Limbaugh once tread and fizzled. Well, Keith is an actual sports guy. Limbaugh doesn't even look like he has ever exercised. And I highly doubt Olbermann will shove his foot in his mouth like Limbaugh infamously did.

    Air America's Mark Green responds to criticism from Seder's fans

    When Air America Radio president Mark Green made the announcement that Lionel was hired to take over Sam Seder's late-morning shift and that Seder would move to a new Sunday afternoon show, loyal fans became very vocal. And they didn't mince words either.

    This was a pretty big story, though it was eclipsed by another big radio industry story - the whole Don Imus thing. Throughout the 'internets', listeners expressed mostly outrage at the decision to remove what some felt was Air America's best host. And they even took the fight to Air America's own site (updated link).

    Green took note of the outcry, and this weekend issued an official statement on the controversy, so as to help mollify enraged listeners. In it, he acknowledged that not every decision will ever be met with complete and absolute approval, and also threw his support behind Seder and his new weekend show. Here's the latest from his desk:

    I want to thank all of you who took the time to contact us at Air America about the Sam Seder Show. It shows you care and are part of our extended Air America family, even if we can't agree on every lineup judgment.

    I, too, think Sam is terrific and was eager to keep him on air. After we discussed various possibilities, I'm very happy that we agreed on a new show that's really unlike anything else on radio (or television). The three hour program, as I wrote in my posted "Message" earlier week, will focus on "networks and netroots" -- that is, a review of the Sunday political talkfests with mostly bloggers as commentators.

    Please know that, consistent with my 35 year history as a dedicated progressive advocate and author, I'm devoted to keeping Air America as the leader in progressive talk and to taking it from the red to the black. Both.

    I believe when we're done with all our plans for the new Air America 2.0 -- in terms on overall lineup, new platforms, better marketing, important collaborations (like our partnership with MoveOn this week broadcasting the "Virtual Town Hall on Iraq") -- you'll be as optimistic as I am that Air America will both survive and thrive after a roller coaster past year.

    Mark Green
    Air America

    To Green's credit, at least he took the time to address the issue, something his predecessor failed to do in the badly-mangled dismissal of Mike Malloy last August. And Green and his crew do have a challenging task ahead of them, in rebuilding the network, making it viable, and helping to make it grow. And as is often the case in the broadcast industry, tough and unpopular choices sometimes have to be made. Am I defending Air America on this? No. Quite frankly, I would have liked to see Seder moved back to evenings, perhaps replacing Politically Direct and EcoTalk, two shows that are on the daily schedule due to cost-cutting from the old regime (both shows have their own sponsors). I think Seder plays better at night anyway.

    For the future growth of the network, the hiring of Lionel was a good radio decision. Again, nothing against Seder, who I think has really grown in the medium and has attracted a dedicated following. But the midday slot is very important, and in order to attract more affiliates, they really did need someone with stronger mainstream credibility. Lionel has proven himself in the business, and has done well in talk radio, though his opinions and politics jibe with the usual talk radio fare. Does Lionel's hiring mean that Air America is becoming Air DLC? No, it doesn't. It means that the network is at least trying to build itself into a competitive force. And in order to do that, sometimes unpopular decisions have to be made. This is a move to win affiliates for that timeslot, and unfortunately, Seder, though extremely popular with fans, was not winning over radio station program directors. Again, I'm not defending Air America on this, but I do realize that radio can be a tough and cruel business, and the only way to succeed is to sometimes make unpopular decisions. Yes, there is a method to this madness.

    And does Lionel deserve any of the blame for this? Of course not. He didn't really need the Air America job. He was doing well for himself at WOR. Taking this gig almost means starting over for him, since many of his current affiliates might not move with him. He was merely the guy that Air America pursued and hired. He had nothing to do with Seder's firing. The circular firing squad attacks on Lionel and Air America will do more harm than good, in my opinion.

    So, what's ahead? Well, Seder aired his last weekday show last Friday. Until Lionel finishes his obligations with WOR and starts at Air America on May 14, the midday slot will be occupied by various hosts, including Lee Rayburn, formerly of WXXM in Madison. Other rumored guest hosts include KLSD San Diego morning host Stacy Taylor.

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